Most weeks this crop year CN Rail has delivered more than 90 per cent of the cars grain companies ordered, according to Ag Transport Coalition’s (ATC) weekly reports.
That’s pretty good service, says Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association and one of the ATC’s members.
David Przednowek, CN Rail’s director of grain marketing, disagrees with the ATC statistics.
“We (CN) can be definitive and say we met all the demand that was being thrown at us,” he said in an interview May 17, noting this winter CN parked 1,500 cars because they weren’t needed.
“Suffice to say if we were only meeting 90 per cent of the demand and have 1,500 cars parked and we’re chasing customers for orders, there’s a disconnect there. That’s the bottom line.”
The ATC was established following the grain-shipping backlog in 2013-14 to measure rail performance shipping grain.
The ATC reports the number of cars the vast majority of grain shippers ordered for delivery in a specific week and the number delivered. Cars that don’t arrive during the specific week are recorded as unfilled orders, even if they show up the following week.
“I think it’s misleading as to what is actually happening in the supply chain,” Przednowek said. “We are chasing customers for orders. We can do more. We’ve got cars parked and we’re only doing 90 per cent (of the orders)? I don’t think so.”
It makes sense to measure rail performance by the number of car orders that are filled, Sobkowich said in an interview May 30.
“Taking exception to ATC data is kind of like a business taking exception to the results from a customer satisfaction survey,” he said.
Przednowek also complained the ATC reports how many cars aren’t moving, but doesn’t explain why. It’s not necessarily the railway’s fault, he said.
That’s true, but it’s still important to collect and report the data to measure how well the grain system is performing, Sobkowich said.
There are times when grain company requests exceed what the railway can deliver, Przednowek said. For example, last August harvest was delayed, which nobody can control.
“A lot of demand flopped into September out of August and then demand built,” he said. “There was a week I remember when I think we had 7,100 or 7,200 orders. The supply chain can’t do 7,100 or 7,200 orders. So yep, there’s unfilled demand.”